Condition ‘Critical’

Dubai TV ups the ante on Arab drama

LONDON — Satcaster Dubai TV is set to shake up Arab TV drama with a groundbreaking skein employing the kind of budgets and lavish production values more familiar in the U.S. than in the local industry.

“The Critical Moments,” a hospital-set drama, is filming in Egypt for a January bow.

“Moments” puts greater emphasis on script development and star quality. Each of the 30 episodes will feature Arab A-listers such as Mona Zaki and Yousra.

“We’re going to a different level,” says Nabil Soueid, managing director of Lebanon-based Rainbow TV Corp., which is overseeing production for Dubai TV.

Ali Jaber, head of Dubai TV, is coy about the budget, saying, “It’s double the expense of a normal show out here.”

TV skeins tend to run at $1 million-$2 million per 60-minute episode.

“This is a very important step for Arab drama,” he adds.

The producers have enlisted U.S. helmer Joseph Zito to handle the Cairo shoot.

With attention to detail that has even seen ambulances shipped in from the U.S. to add to skein’s authenticity, “Moments” is already generating buzz among rival Arab TV execs.

“It’s amazing. I’ve never seen anything like it on Arab TV before. There is depth of vision and the composition is great in all the scenes,” a Bahrain TV producer told Variety after seeing a promo for the show at the recent Mipcom TV mart in Cannes.

Dubai TV is making a big push with its drama slate.

It has acquired Arab-language rights to ABC’s “Ugly Betty,” the phenom based on the Colombian telenovela that has sold around the world, and plans to start production in the coming months.

It’s an approach Jaber hopes will see the satcaster take a bigger bite out of MBC’s position as the leading pan-Arab satcaster.

“We’re in discussions with Disney and Warners to develop original Arabic scripts tailored for the region and the local culture,” Jaber says.

“We’re considering sending our writers to Burbank and workshopping their scripts. We want to get the writers involved in the production,” he adds. “It’s the only way that Arab drama can regenerate itself and adhere to the highest international standards.”

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